“America’s Got Talent: The Champions” kicked off last week with the return of Susan Boyle to the franchise that launched her career. She got the Golden Buzzer from Mel B which sent her straight through to the final in five weeks time. The other act to make it through was stand-up comic Preacher Lawson. He won the most votes from the superfans, a group of long-time viewers of “AGT” drawn from all 50 states. They attended tapings of these episodes featuring 50 acts drawn from around the world.
Among the 10 acts in the running on episode 2 on January 14 is 2017 “AGT” winner Darci Lynne Farmer. The singing ventriloquist returns to compete and brings along one of her puppet pals. Also in contention is the dance group Light Balance, which placed third to her in that final back in the late summer of 2017.
Mel B had been the one to press her Golden Buzzer for Darci Lynne when she first auditioned in 2017. Will one of the other judges — Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum or Howie Mandel — use their Golden Buzzer tonight? Perhaps Light Balance will win over new host Terry Crews the way that they did Tyra Banks two years ago?
Three of the other eight acts competing tonight took the title in their respective countries. 2012 “Britain’s Got Talent” dog trainer Ashleigh Butler and Sully; 2012 “Holland’s Got Talent” jump ropers DDF Crew; and 2016 “Spains’s Got Talent” rock opera singer Christina Ramos.
Besides Light Balance, five of the acts in the line-up lost their bids to win “America’s Got Talent.” including English schoolgirl Courtney Hadwin, who was a finalist last summer. The other also-rans hoping for a different result this time around are: Taylor Williamson, stand-up comic (AGT 2012); Piff the Magic Dragon, comedian/magician (AGT 2015); Deadly Games, danger knife throwers (AGT 2016); and Viktor Lee, juggler (AGT 2016)
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8:01 p.m. – This week the Golden Buzzer is in the hands of Heidi, so she will personally select one of the acts to go straight to the final.
8:03 p.m. – The first act of the night was Darci Lynne who everyone else backstage was admittedly scared to compete against. Since winning she’s been on her own national tour and appeared on nationally televised shows like Jimmy Fallon. Tonight she took the stage with her mouse friend Oscar to take a few jabs at Simon and sing a duet of “Proud Mary.”
8:08 p.m. – Darci set the standard very high for the rest of the night, receiving a standing ovation from the judges and audience. Heidi called her one of the most unique champions in series history and Simon complimented her singing voice and her competitive instinct. He also said that Darci deserves to be the world champion, but without Heidi’s Golden Buzzer it’ll take the votes of the superfans to get her to the next round.
8:11 p.m. – Up next was Britain’s Got Talent winner Ashleigh who was a champion alongside her dog Pudsey. Unfortunately Pudsey got cancer since the show and had to be put down so Ashleigh came tonight with Sully, another of her dogs who had befriended Pudsey before he passed. Together Ashleigh and Sully did an 80s themed workout and wrestling routine that was high energy and featured non-stop tricks for Sully to do.
8:18 p.m. – Howie noticed that Sully looked happy to be performing and it was infectious because Mel was overjoyed watching them perform. Naturally, dog lover Simon also loved the routine, but more than that he was thrilled that Ashleigh came back and agreed with Howie that she has stepped up her game since being crowned a champion in Britain seven years ago.
8:24 p.m. – Next the lights dropped to set the stage for Light Balance’s return to the show after losing to Darci Lynne on their original season. This time they feel stronger and better prepared to defeat Darci… and the others! For their performance they did a medley of rock and pop songs in the style of boy bands and included their signature of having certain parts of the stage go dark in order to highlight members and moves.
8:28 p.m. – Once again Mel loved them, but Heidi was even more complimentary calling them “fresh.” Though they weren’t winners on their season, Simon told them that they are one of the reasons why they wanted to do this show in the first place and that if they did back then what they did tonight that they may have won.
8:33 p.m. – Taylor was the next AGT alum up to deliver one of his comedy sets, promising Simon that in the last five years he wrote at least four new jokes. However, once again he was making jokes about taking selfies with Heidi. The rest of the bit took on Bill Cosby, some political and cultural issues, and meandered into some weak jokes about his attempts at dating.
8:39 p.m. – Simon didn’t beat around the bush, pointing out that perhaps his nerves got the best of him because the “wow factor” wasn’t there tonight. Heidi defended him though and said that nervousness is what “makes him adorable.” Mel and Howie sided with Simon though, being nice but making it clear that it’ll be tough for him to get through.
8:45 p.m. – Christina from Spain was on stage as a part of her first trip to America. As a shy person born on a small island, winning “Spain’s Got Talent” was a shock for Christina. Tonight she sang a unique rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” that switched between her operatic vocal style and a hardcore rock anthem we all know it as.
8:49 p.m. – The crowd roared following Christina’s performance, leading me to believe that it was magnetic in the theater. Mel was especially hyped up for it and while Howie and Heidi were a little more muted than her in their response they also loved what she did. Simon called her voice “off the charts” and seemed legitimately left in disbelief over her talent.
8:56 p.m. – Also winners from abroad, the DDF Crew, a jumping rope act, says that winning “Holland’s Got Talent” changed their lives and showed them that they can make a living with their talent. For them, this was their chance to make it in America.
8:58 p.m. – In their act they expertly did break dance moves, hops, flips, spins and all while keeping pace with a fast-paced dance track. Despite their perfection, Howie said he wasn’t blown away and that the performance wouldn’t have ranked on a normal season of AGT. Mel and Heidi loved it, calling it perfectly timed and said that perhaps Howie doesn’t understand how easy they made it seem. Simon called the act fun, but agreed with Howie and said that they should have done more than that.
9:05 p.m. – Despite having a few hiccups in his early performances, Viktor managed to make it to the final on his original season of AGT. Since then he’s fallen in love and become a father so he has a family to fight for this time around. Like Light Balance, Viktor used multimedia graphics to enhance his act that is essentially a juggling performance. He began with three balls and ten expanded into sets of four and five, but the impressive part is how well timed his choreography with the music, balls and graphics remained.
9:10 p.m. – Howie told him that he his a “tableau,” incorporating so many different styles and talents into his performance. Simon and Mel both thought he improved since they last saw him and Heidi called his entire act “elegant.” For a minute there I thought he might be the one that Heidi hit her Golden Buzzer for, because she looked totally enamored, but she didn’t pull the trigger on it!
9:16 p.m. – Back from last season, Courtney returned to live up to the early promise, but insisting that she’d only come back if she was going to do something different. To do that she performed an original song rather than a cover. For an original song she managed to maintain all of her star appeal and remained engaging with the crowd and the judges who were all smiles throughout.
9:21 p.m. – Simon told her that her confidence has definitely improved, Mel acknowledged how self-knowing she is for a 14 year old and Heidi admired how effortlessly cool she is as performer. Once again I’m shocked that Heidi didn’t hit her Golden Buzzer! They really seemed to love what she did.
9:27 p.m. – Danger act Deadly Games detailed the life and death experiences they’ve had in their careers, including a horrible fall that left his aerialist sister paralyzed, before returning to the stage for their knife throwing act. Tonight they played out a Bond-like scenario where knives were thrown with little to no flinching whatsoever, even when at boards spinning around her body and at a martini glass held right in front of her face. And if that wasn’t enough, he even shot a crossbow over his shoulder while only aiming from the self-facing camera on Heidi’s phone.
9:33 p.m. – With tears in their eyes, Deadly Games listened to comments from Howie and Simon that likened them as the kind of champions the series was made for and then Heidi exclaimed that their performance did things to her body… including making her hit her Golden Buzzer for them! Finally! And well deserved because their act was the most thrilling of the night.
9:39 p.m. – The last champion of the night was Piff, who broke the news to the country that since being on the show he’s scored his own residency in Las Vegas and even had a theater there named after him. Even still he returned for this season in order to do what he couldn’t do originally… win!
9:42 p.m. – In his comedy-magic act tonight he brought Heidi on stage for a “ring cleaning” where his dog ate the ring and then they set up a gag where the dog would poop it out into a bag. In the bag though, was not the ring but instead a “dragon egg.” After cracking the egg into a cup, Piff had Heidi poke the yolk of the egg and right inside of it was her ring!
9:47 p.m. – Howie told Piff that he’s brilliant and a professional and Heidi appreciated that all his success had not gone to his head. In a rare moment of sweetness, Simon actually thanked Piff for being a “wonderful ambassador” for the show and being one of the reasons why future contestants have faith in appearing on the show themselves.
9:53 p.m. – With Deadly Games already through to the final with Heidi’s Golden Buzzer, the nine other acts were looking to be the one sent through to the finals by the super fans from all 50 states. Terry called out the top three acts still in the running and they were: Courtney Hadwin, Christina Ramos and Darci Lynne Farmer!
9:56 p.m. – Of the three women, Courtney got most votes in the 18-34 age range, Christina won the Midwest and Darci Lynne won the South. But in third place was Courtney.
9:57 p.m. – And the act voted through to the finals was Christina Ramos! That makes her the second international series champion to make the finals, joining Deadly Games, Preacher Lawson and Susan Boyle.